Hundreds of foreign oil companies are taking part in a major industry exhibition that opened in Tehran on Saturday, making a mockery of U.S. and European Union efforts to impose sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas industry.
Organizers of the 16th annual oil and gas industry exhibition in Tehran expect to welcome more than 1 million visitors from Iran and around the region, and boast that they have attracted 460 foreign companies to attend.
“In this exhibition, [the number of] participating countries and foreign companies has increased by 20 and 22 percent respectively as compared to the previous year,” exhibition manager Hossein Porsan told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
Companies showing their wares – either directly or through their Iranian agents – came from Austria, Spain, Australia, England, Italy, Germany, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Norway, India, Singapore, Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Brazil, Porsan said.
A coalition of European human rights organizations seeking a total trade embargo on Iran said the participation of European companies undermined European Union sanctions against Iran’s energy sector and blasted governments in Germany, Austria, and the UK for failing to stop them from showcasing their technology in Tehran.
The “Stop the Bomb” campaign condemned the participation of European companies, and called on the governments of Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Austria to investigate them for possible sanctions violations.
"Any deals with the Iranian energy sector directly support the regime itself, and the guilty Western companies are perpetuating the regime's violations of human rights, its nuclear program and the export of terror against the will of the Iranian people and in spite of powerful popular protests against the Ahmadinejad's government,” said Dan Coen, the director of Stop the Bomb-UK.
According to a recent report by Iran’s Central Bank, revenues from the energy sector continue to make up 50% of Iran’s state budget and 80% of its export income. Most of the Iranian energy sector is state-owned, with many of the companies directly controlled by the Revolutionary Guards.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have been designated an international terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department and since July 2010 are also on the EU list of sanctioned entities, making it illegal for European companies to do business with them.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, noted the irony of the word “sanctionable,” which is “one of the few English words to have two contradictory meanings: legally punishable and ethnically approvable.”
That contradiction “appears to translate well into three European languages – German, Italian and Spanish – at least with regard to doing business with Iran,” he said.
The German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a vocal critic of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its human rights violations. And yet, Germany continues to do a booming business with Iran.
Forty-two German governments were identified as participants in the Tehran oil and gas exhibition, according to the organizers, and Germany continues to be the most important business partner of the Iranian regime, exporting to Iran products worth 3.8 billion Euros ($5.5 billion) last year.
Earlier this year, Germany’s central bank helped Iran get paid for $12 billion of oil it sold to India despite intense pressure from Washington to stop the transfers. India paid the German Bundesbank for the oil, and the Germans then transferred the money to the Iranian-owned European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH) in Hamburg.
The United States black-listed the EIH last September because of its involvement in weapons proliferation and banned it from using the U.S. financial system. According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, the German government approved the $12 billion transfer to EIH as part of a deal with Tehran to win the release of two German journalists detained in Iran.
The two journalists had been arrested for interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who received international attention because she was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle personally picked up the two Bild am Sonntag journalists in Tehran on Feb. 20.
“The results of the German Iran policy are disastrous. Despite EU sanctions, Germany is the most important Western business partner of Iran,” said German Stop the Bomb spokesman, Jonathan Weckerle. The Germany government has made “no serious efforts to put effective pressure on the Iranian regime.”
The Italian-Iranian Chamber of Commerce and the Spanish equivalent have both been promoting participation in the Tehran oil and gas exhibition, despite the European Union sanctions that include “restrictions on trade in key equipment and technology for, and restrictions on investment in the Iranian oil and gas industry,” the ADL’s Foxman noted.
Both Italy and Spain have also hosted Iranian trade delegations recently.
According to the exhibition organizers, 18 Italian and 7 Spanish companies are taking in the oil and gas trade fair that opened on Saturday.
The range of products on show from British companies at the oil and gas fair included pumps, pipes, construction machines and specialized measuring instruments, according to the organizers. Some 18 British companies were present at the show.
Ban the Bomb’s Austrian unit lodged a protest with the Austrian government because of the participation of the state-run oil company, OMV, in the Tehran oil and gas fair. OMV is one of the largest European oil companies, and was the only oil major to take part in this week’s exhibition.
By far the largest overseas contingent came from China, which sent 129 companies to the show. China has resisted U.S. and European calls to limit its commercial involvement in Iran, and has abstained for United Nations Security council resolutions condemning Iran for its nuclear weapons development.
South Korea sent 18 to the trade fair, the Netherlands sent 8, France sent 6, Canada sent 4, and Japan sent 3.
Six American companies were identified by the exhibitors as taking part. However, Newsmax found that none of the companies named were actually American. Three were British, one was Chinese, and two were Iranian representative agents who apparently claimed to be able to import U.S. oil well logging products.
German political scientist Matthias Küntzel published a directory of “Who is Who in German Trade with Iran” earlier this year.
He said that Iranian government sources boasted of their ability to use German companies such as Basell, Linde and Uhde, as conduits for purchasing U.S. oil field development equipment.
More than 200 German companies were actively doing business in Iran, according to a listing he discovered that had been published by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Tehran.
German companies also were involved in providing technologies to Iran’s nuclear program, and in helping the Revolutionary Guards Corps track Iranian dissidents with specialized security equipment, Küntzel said.
“German companies and institutions are making a major contribution to sustaining the present Iranian regime,” Küntzel said.
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